Maybe you’ve seen them: people talking while they’re strolling down the street or driving around town. A few years ago, this would have been a weird sight indeed. Now it’s totally normal. People want information instantaneously and they’re used to multitasking. They’re increasingly doing voice searches on their iPhones, Android phones, or smart speakers, asking the digital powers for directions, an update on the weather, or which local businesses carry an item they just found online. Now, we barely notice when someone does a Google voice search on “Where can I buy masks?” or asks “Alexa why the music isn’t playing. People who don’t have smart speakers are starting to seem a little antiquated.
And why not use voice search, as it’s a super convenient, quick way to do things in our modern world. It’s a joy compared with having to hassle with typing a query in a search bar on a screen, or trying to do a local search on a teeny-tiny little mobile phone keyboard (especially if you’re all thumbs). Getting voice search results is naturally faster and simpler in many situations. The research bears this out: 71% of Americans say they’d rather use voice search than mess around with entering a query on a keyboard (PWC).
So what’s the latest with voice search — who’s using it, what are they using it for, how much do they like using it, and where’s everything headed?
For starters, not surprisingly, the smart-speaker market has continued to make noise. An estimated 55% of American households were expected to own a smart speaker in 2022 (Juniper Research), and that figure should keep climbing as 5G networks come online.
As with much emerging technology, the young folks are the most on the ball: Millennials are currently the main users of voice search. However, all age groups, including seniors, are also using it more (eMarketer). After all, Grandpa should be able to play his classical music by shouting at his Amazon Echo from his wheelchair.
Alexa, why do people like voice search?
Here are a few statistics about how people are using voice search and what they’re planning to do with it:
- In 2020, 52% of people using voice assistants were putting them to use either almost daily or a few times a day (NPR)
- Roughly half of all consumers online research products by voice (Narvar), while slightly more than half use voice to shop for things like groceries (PWC)
- By 2022, 70% of consumers will be using voice to shop instead of going to brick-and-mortar stores (Capgemini)
- 48% of voice-activated-speaker owners want to be provided with personalized tips and information from brands (Google)
Hey Google, what’s happening with mobile searches?
Talking on the phone seems so old-fashioned when you can now talk to your phone.
- Web browsing is still the main feature being used on mobile devices, but voice searching is in second place (Perficient)
- Half of American drivers have used voice search while jetting around (Voicebot.ai)
- 71% of consumers who wear devices say they’ll be utilizing voice search in the future (99 Firms)
- 63% of marketers agree that including a voice app for smartphone users is “extremely important” (Voicebot.ai)
- By 2023, roughly 8 billion devices will provide voice assistants (Statista)
Voice searching isn’t just convenient for consumers, of course; it’s tied to vastly improving revenue for businesses. The outlook for businesses’ adopting voice search in a variety of ways continues to be rosy:
- 71% of executives at companies believe voice search will improve the overall online user experience; 66% say it can help drive conversion rates and boost revenue (Adobe)
- Most (three-quarters) businesses say they’ve already realized quantifiable benefits from voice- or chat-assistant initiatives. Those benefits have included a 20%+ reduction in customer-service costs (Capgemini)
- Voice-driven shopping is expected to hit $40 billion (way up from $2 billion) by 2022 (Siteefy)
- In 2030, the global AI-based and voice recognition market should reach $27.3 billion (insightSLICE)
What are the latest ways voice search is being put to use for potential business gains, and where is its use most relevant and rewarding?
Voice search in digital marketing and online shopping (“voice commerce”) is a continuing hot trend, and it’s no wonder,
with companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon embracing voice-assistant technology and rolling it out wherever people might want to ask for what they want. What could be easier than asking Amazon‘s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby, or some other voice assistant to help you stock up on a few cleaning supplies or point you to a refrigerator that’s online in the right size and color for your remodeled kitchen?
Providing a voice-search option is turning out to be highly lucrative for online businesses, so many companies are upgrading and optimizing their ecommerce websites to work with voice. One telling statistic: voice-based ad revenue is projected to reach $19 billion by 2022 (Juniper Research).
Voice-driven shopping also provides marketers with opportunities for suggesting personalized upsells and boosting business on web pages. For example, imagine that you’re shopping online, and just as you’re about to pay, a pop-up virtual assistant tells you about a tantalizing add-on that would cost you only a few dollars more. Chances are good that you’ll listen and may well say “What the heck?” and buy the additional item. A voice assistant can also remind you about products you’ve bought earlier and may want to buy again.
An in-depth study of online buying practices using voice that was conducted by Coupon Follow found that:
- Convenience and saving time were the most popular reasons people used a voice assistant to help them shop; some people also cited saving time and money as major benefits
- Online shoppers who used voice spent an average of $136 more than people who solely shopped online
- About a third of “avid online shoppers” use voice to buy something at least once a month
- The most commonly bought items using voice? Groceries.
Online shopping is convenient, but sometimes a trip to a brick-and-mortar store is needed or preferred, either after asking your voice assistant for information or in addition to having that first-time “conversation.” For instance, let’s say you’re out of coffee and need a quick caffeine fix. Starbucks provides a handy voice app that will let you reorder your “usual” item, plus look up your loyalty card balance.
Some retailers are starting to offer a voice search option inside their brick-and-mortar stores as well, letting shoppers quickly find out where items are located on the floor and get product details. Instead of being greeted by a human sales associate asking if they can help, a prospective customer can head over to a self-service kiosk and talk about what they’re looking for.
Kiosk speech technology is still being refined and has some challenges, such as background noise that can interfere with the device’s understanding of what the shopper wants. However, if voice search can be effectively used online, it makes sense that it can also ultimately be deployed everywhere else that’s relevant, from big-box stores to small boutiques.
Another voice-search trend gaining steam is in entertainment: asking a device to play music on an app like Spotify, or find a movie on an app like Netflix. For example, people who watch Apple TV can speak a query to bring up search engine results across multiple apps.
News organizations are also getting into the spirit. For instance, The Economist has a daily edition that provides the morning news by voice request. And The Harvard Business Review lets consumers use a voice app to access an audio version of an emailed newsletter.
Where’s voice search headed?
With the surge in online shopping due to the pandemic and huge influx of new products to online marketplaces, experts are predicting more demand for voice-centric user experiences.
We’re not there yet. Some people still have reservations about trusting a voice device; they’re understandably concerned about security or “Big Brother” listening in on them.
Still, people are mostly getting more comfortable with and confident about using their voices as a way to search. And it’s a win-win, because as they use voice search more, additional data is collected, which in turn improves machine-learning and AI predictions, thereby generating higher-quality responses to voice search queries, which makes the technology even more attractive to users. In short, voice search functionality will improve based on how fully customers and companies embrace and invest in it.
As its capabilities keep developing, convenience and personalization will be key areas where people expect to see improvement. They may find that voice search becomes more “intuitive.”
The next quantum leap will occur when people en masse can feel that they trust the technology. “Once trust is established, consumers are willing to go to the next level of engagement, including higher levels of personalization, emotional connection, and value,” predicts CapGemini.
A few more CapGemini statistics about why voice search is winning:
- More than two-thirds (68%) of consumers say a voice assistant lets them multitask and complete tasks hands free
- 59% say that in terms of personalization, chat assistants are continuing to improve
- People want more “humanlike” engagement with their voice assistants, for instance, more than half said they want to name their assistant
As these intriguing facts and trends illustrate, voice search is now a natural way for people to easily find what they want in an always-connected world. It’s here to stay, its outlook is bright, and it’s evolving fast. Hey Alexa, can you keep track of voice search statistics so that this article can be updated when voice search is even more mainstream?